Well. Botox. Don’t we have ourselves a juicy topic here? I feel no need to justify the choices I make when it comes to which substances I choose to inject to which bits of my body, but I’ve wanted to write this post for over a year now.
So many people have such Hollywood perceptions of Botox – that it results in frozen, expressionless faces that look stiff and shiny; and it’s reserved for “older people”. To explain my thought process, I’m dividing things up into manageable chunks.
I’m really not angry at you
I’m a frowner; have been as long as I can remember. We’re talking full on Klingon frowning that contorts the upper half of my face into something not dissimilar to a Halloween pumpkin. Add to that a pale complexion and naturally arched, almost-black eyebrows and, well, strangers walk circles around me because I look ready to go nuclear at any second. It’s not me*, it’s bitchy resting face (I may be related to the blonde girl).
Half of my parental gene pool has very good skin, and the other half are very prone to wrinkles. Because things can go either way for me, I take good general care of my skin, stay out of the sun, use a high SPF daily and I had my first Botox injections when I was around 26, and I’ve had 5 or 6 since.
Age appropriate botox
So many times when Botox comes up in conversation, people say they want to start having it done then they’re 35/40/older. While there’s no recommended age as far as I know, it’s most effective if you start doing it when you begin to see the fine lines settle on your face. If you wait until they’re deep, pronounced wrinkles, you’ll need much larger doses (which is going to be more expensive) and you probably won’t get the full effect.
Do I recommend Botox?
I clearly don’t have any issues with Botox and I’ve seen great results – I have less forehead- and frown wrinkles at 30 than I had at 26. I don’t make it my business to stand on the street corner and campaign for it though, but if someone asks I’ll give my opinion just as I do with the cosmetic lotions and potions I test.
Prevention VS cure
I will say that once you have wrinkles and expression lines; no serum, lotion or cream will get rid of them. They’ll temporarily plump them, but if you stop using the product you’ll be back to square one in a couple of weeks if not days. What anti ageing skincare products ARE great for, is delaying signs of ageing on the skin. A combination of peptides, hyaluronic acid, retinol, AHAs, vitamin C and whatever else the flavour of the week may be will slow down degeneration of collagen and will keep your skin plumper for longer – so use these ‘anti ageing’ products from your early 20s if you’re keen on delaying the process, don’t wait till you’re 40.
That said, you can’t stop or avoid the skin ageing process completely and even if there were a way to do it, I wouldn’t. I just don’t see the harm in slowing things down somewhat. Yes, your lines show how you’ve lived and laughed. But my frown lines only say I am a creature of habit and my eyes are light sensitive. So I choose to visit a fairy with a magic needle to wave my worries away every now and then.
Aside from disabling my frowny habits for 6 months, injection of Botox also gives the skin tissue time to heal and regenerate so the actual lines disappear/are greatly reduced within a couple of weeks (if you’re older, this will take longer). The muscles have already become lazier and due to not being able to frown properly for extended periods they’re underworked; so when the Botox has worked out I don’t frown as aggressively as I used to. If you start this process young-ish, you don’t give perma-lines time to settle down.
Is Botox affordable?
The price is calculated per unit, and the unit price depends on your practitioner. It can be administered by dentists, GPs, dermatologists, plastic surgeons – the more qualified they are the higher the unit price is likely to be, but the standard is currently around R60 per unit. My last session was with a GP that charged only R50 per unit (score!), and she injected 30 units into my frown- and forehead lines (the ‘tox is also very effective to treat crow’s feet around the eyes, but I don’t have any lines there yet, and I’m not sure if they’ll bother me to be honest – I find them pretty on most women. Anyhoo). So you pay a large-ish sum at a time, but if you’re on the younger spectrum you’ll only have it done 2-3 times a year. I’ve never gone more than twice a year, and if 30 units is injected like this last time, it lasts 6-8 months in my case.
Don’t go for the cheapest options though, it’s worth asking around for recommendations and definitely go with more conservative doctors. The very first time I went with a plastic surgeon at a well-known clinic because I was young and very weary of looking odd. I would recommend this even if only for your first time, and don’t be shy to ask for a copy of your face chart when you’re done – you can take it along if you change doctors, and they can see how much was injected where.
Can other people tell I’ve had Botox?
Nope. Nobody can tell. Not a soul I know have been able to tell (except when The Man loudly told all our friends at a dinner party once and they thought it was just hysterical to keep asking me to frown for the camera). The observant ones notice something is different, but because not-frowning isn’t exactly a thing now and then someone will ask if I’d had my eyebrows reshaped or my lashes tinted; or they’ll tell me that I look relaxed after my holiday (which is a bloody nice change from what’s wrong/who pissed you off/is everything ok/did I do something to offend you).
Except if you get too much of it or if the doctor isn’t very good. Then there will be some signs: the shiny forehead, the too-arched/always questioning Jack Nicholson eyebrows, a skin that looks like it’s too stiff. These are all signs of Botox that’s done wrong (after getting lost in a cycle of google images of bad Botox, I decided to refrain from posting any. But Nicole Kidman and Christian Slater win).
I’m not going to go into the history and safety of Botox, except that it has been FDA approved for a couple of decades. If you want to read up on it, there’s a very thorough summary with valid citations here. There are obviously cases where side effects and adverse effects have been recorded, as with any cosmetic procedure. There are also doctors who get it very, very wrong and patients that insist on ridiculous amounts of the stuff at too-short intervals.
There you have it. I wrote this because I don’t feel it’s something to be ashamed of, and it’s not something that’s reserved for Hollywood stars and Sandton socialites. I’m happy to answer the questions about my experience with the ‘tox, but I won’t be answering any medical questions.
*I have since learnt that I have pretty well developed/large muscles in my jaw and forehead areas and particularly so on one side, the former not being helpful for my migraine situation. I did once have Botox injected into a couple of spots on my jaw to see if it will alleviate migraines (it’s a well known treatment) but no such luck for me.